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COMMON COLD: EVERYONE GETS IT

In Health, Healthcare, Medicine on August 17, 2013 at 3:08 pm

COLDWhat causes coughs, runny noses, and other symptoms of the common cold? — These symptoms are usually caused by a viral infection. Lots of viruses can take hold inside your nose, mouth, throat, or lungs, and cause cold symptoms.

Most people get over a cold without lasting problems. Even so, having a cold can be uncomfortable. And if your child has a cold, it is hard to know when the symptoms call for a trip to the doctor.

What are the symptoms of the common cold? — The symptoms include:

  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Sniffling and runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Chest congestion

 

In children, the common cold can also cause a fever. But adults do not usually get a fever when they have a cold.

How can I tell if I have a cold or the flu? — The common cold and the flu both cause many of the same symptoms. But they also have some important differences.

Is it a cold or the flu?
Cold Flu
Symptoms
Fever Rare Usual; high (100°F to 102°F; occasionally higher, especially in young children); lasts 3 to 4 days
Headache Rare Common
General aches, pains Slight Usual; often severe
Fatigue, weakness Sometimes Usual; can last up to 2 to 3 weeks
Extreme exhaustion Never Usual; at the beginning of the illness
Stuffy nose Common Sometimes
Sneezing Usual Sometimes
Sore throat Common Sometimes
Chest discomfort, cough Mild to moderate; hacking cough Common; can become severe
Treatment Antihistamines

Decongestant

Pain/fever reliever (eg, ibuprofen/Motrin®), naproxen/Aleve®, acetaminophen/Tylenol®

Antiviral medicines – see your doctor

Pain/fever reliever (eg, ibuprofen/Motrin®), naproxen/Aleve®, acetaminophen/Tylenol®

Prevention Wash your hands often

Avoid close contact with anyone with a cold

Annual vaccination; antiviral medicine – see your doctor

Wash your hands often

Avoid close contact with anyone who has the flu

Complications Sinus congestion

Middle ear infection

Asthma

Bronchitis

Bronchitis, pneumonia; can be life threatening

When should I call the doctor or nurse? — Most people who have a cold do not need to see the doctor or nurse. But you should call your doctor or nurse if you have:

  • A fever of more than 100.4º F (38º C) that comes with shaking chills, loss of appetite, or trouble breathing
  • A fever and also have lung disease, such as emphysema
  • A cough that lasts longer than 10 days
  • Chest pain when you cough, trouble breathing, or coughing up blood

 

If you are older than 75, you should also call your doctor or nurse any time you get a long-lasting cough.

Take your child to the emergency room if he or she:

  • Becomes confused or stops responding to you
  • Has trouble breathing or has to work hard to breathe

 

Call your child’s doctor or nurse if he or she:

  • Refuses to drink anything for a long time
  • Is younger than 3 months
  • Has a fever and is not acting like him- or herself
  • Has a stuffed or runny nose that gets worse or does not get better after 2 weeks
  • Has red eyes or yellow goop coming out of his or her eyes
  • Has ear pain, pulls at his or her ears, or shows other signs of having an ear infection

 

What can I do to feel better? — If you are an adult, you can try cough and cold medicines that you can get without a prescription. These medicines might help with your symptoms. But they won’t cure your cold, or help you to feel better faster.

If you decide to try nonprescription cold medicines, be sure to follow the directions on the label. Do not combine two or more medicines that have acetaminophen in them. If you take too much acetaminophen, the drug can damage your liver. Also, if you have a heart condition, or you take prescription medicines, ask your pharmacist if it is safe to take the cold medicine you have in mind.

What should I know if my child has a cold? — In children, the common cold is often more severe than it is in adults. It also lasts longer. Plus, children often get a fever during the first three days of a cold.

Are cough and cold medicines safe for children? — If your child is younger than 6, you should NOT give him or her any cold medicines. These medicines are not safe for young children. Even if your child is older than 6, cough and cold medicines are unlikely to help.

NEVER give aspirin to any child younger than 18 years old. In children, aspirin can cause a life-threatening condition called Reye syndrome. When giving your child acetaminophen or other nonprescription medicines, never give more than the recommended dose.

How long will I be sick? — Colds usually last 3 to 7 days, but some people have symptoms for up to 2 weeks.

Can the common cold lead to more serious problems? — In very few cases, yes. In some people having a cold can lead to:

  • Pneumonia or bronchitis (infections of the lungs)
  • Ear infections (in children)
  • Other infections

 

How can I keep from getting another cold? — The most important thing you can do is to wash your hands often with soap and water. Alcohol hand rubs work well, too. The germs that cause the common cold can live on tables, door handles, and other surfaces for at least two hours. You never know when you might be touching germs. That’s why it’s so important to clean your hands often.

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